BCS National Championship Game 2014: Florida State Special Teams Wins the Day

Andrew CoppensContributor IJanuary 7, 2014

Jan 6, 2014; Pasadena, CA, USA; Florida State Seminoles wide receiver Levonte Whitfield (7) returns a kick off for a touchdown against the Auburn Tigers during the second half of the 2014 BCS National Championship game at the Rose Bowl.  Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY

Jameis Winston, Tre Mason, Nick Marshall...pshh, try Roberto Aguayo, Levonte Whitfield and Karlos Williams.

For all the stars who will get the headlines—it was the names of three special teams players that mattered most in Florida State's 34-31 win over Auburn for the national championship on Monday night. 

The fact that those words were just written is a feat in itself, considering how this game began. It couldn't have gone much worse for the Seminoles in the first quarter-and-a-half. 

Auburn was winning the field-position battle, FSU's punter was playing poorly and it couldn't cover the Tigers' return game. 

Jan 6, 2014; Pasadena, CA, USA; Florida State Seminoles kicker Roberto Aguayo (19) kicks for a point after during the second half of the 2014 BCS National Championship game against the Auburn Tigers at the Rose Bowl.  Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

However, when the final whistle blew and Florida State became national champions—it was the Seminoles special teams that won the day and the national title too.

As we hinted at, it didn't start out that way, with Auburn up 21-3 thanks to its special teams putting both its offense and defense in position to be successful.

No series of plays better exemplified Auburn's early advantage than what took place following Steven Clark's 38-yard punt that was downed at FSU's 2-yard line. 

All of the special teams momentum was swinging Auburn's way, yet it didn't stay that way. 

In a strange way, the Tigers' special teams success actually forced Florida State's special teams to come up big as well. 

Down 21-3, facing a fourth down at their own 40-yard line and under five minutes to go in the first half—all signs pointed to the Seminoles needing to do something big or they could be staring an insurmountable 28-3 hole square in the face. 

Jimbo Fisher and the 'Noles went gutsy, calling a fake punt on 4th-and-4. It worked, as Williams gained seven yards and the Seminoles went on to make it 21-10 on that same series.

It not only changed the score and the complexion of the game, but it gave the entire Seminoles special teams unit a boost. 

That was just one facet of the special teams to come through for the Seminoles on the night, though.

Kicker Roberto Aguayo may have had the best night of anyone on the 'Noles on Monday. Not only was he perfect on field goals (2-of-2 with a long of 41 yards), but he also made the most crucial extra point of the season.

Thanks to a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, Aguayo hit a not-so-easy 34-yard extra point to put his team up for the first time all game at 21-20. 

All of that would be topped by one moment that will live in BCS infamy. You know, the moment where Auburn went from up 24-20 with just under five minutes left in the game to down 27-24 thanks to this:

That 100-yard kick return by Whitfield capped off a complete turnaround from what FSU's special teams 

It's safe to say that unit went from goat to hero over the course of four quarters, and when it was all on the line, FSU's special teams came up larger than Auburn's. 

For all of Winston's fourth-quarter success and game-winning touchdown, without the special teams' performance, Winston and his teammates aren't hoisting the crystal ball or being called 2014 national champions.  


*Andy Coppens is Bleacher Report's lead writer for the Big Ten. You can follow him on Twitter: @ andycoppens.